We live in a world where dreadful actions are constantly being perpetrated and justified in the name of religion. This global phenomenon has no boundaries and is not relegated to any single faith. Zealots are zealots, and their destructive and narrow-minded, hate-filled actions have been in existence throughout human history.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about such an incident. In our narrative found in the Book of Numbers, we read the story of Pinchas, whose murderous actions frame the way our faith treats religious fanaticism.
The narrative of this story begins with God’s wrath. God is angry with the People of Israel for worshiping false idols, which results in the outbreak of a plague. In an attempt to placate the situation, Pinchas impales a couple while they are in bed together. This zealous act quiets God’s rage, and the plague is lifted. This act of violence is then followed by the most puzzling aspect of the entire story, God offers Pinchas a brit shalom – a covenant of peace.
It is here, woven into the actual calligraphy of the Torah, that we find the earliest cautionary lessons against religious fanaticism. For in the world shalom (in this covenant of peace following Pinchas’ murderous actions), we find the only letter in the entire Torah which is intentionally written in a broken and incomplete way.
The custom the Broken Vav dates back to the original Masoretic text, and throughout our history the phenomenon of the Broken Vav has served to teach us that any peace that is attained through acts of religiously based violence is considered incomplete and broken.
Join us this Friday night to take an up-close look at the Broken Vav and other textual anomalies found in the Torah.